Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cherry Pie Pudding -- a child's play


Looks a gorgeous mess but it IS delicious

It has been 12 days since Big Sis's summer vacation started. In these 12 days there have been picnics, movie at the theater(Judy Moody), umpteen library visits, one piano recital, friends staying over for one weekend and one sleepover. Only the sleepover did not culminate in sleep because it was Big Sis's first and she missed her little sis terribly. So around midnight we got her back.

But other wise her sleepover was really fun because it started early in the morning and it was spent with a lovely 15 year old girl, whom BigSis adores. The 15 year old is the most perfect 15 year old I have ever seen in my life, why else would she agree spending a day and night with a 7 year old tell me ? On her day out BigSis picked up some great cooking too. Sleepovers with fifteen year olds come with lots of advantages, I tell you.


One of the dishes she learned was this Cherry Pie Pudding. She wanted to do it all by herself this Saturday and that is what she did. It is the perfect dish for a child to make.No chopping, No cooking, No heat, No difficult steps. All I had to do was get three things

1. Graham Crackers

2. Jell-O instant Vanilla Pudding

3. A can of Cherry Pie filling (You will get this at the super market)

and she was set.

Top it with the fact that it is delicious.Everyone who had it loved it and for this summer this is going to be on the menu when I am having people over until Big Sis rebels that is. But even then it is so easy that I can do it by myself.

Help your child make it this summer too and you won't regret it for sure.


The Pudding is done in 3 easy steps

In a square baking or serving dish arrange the graham crackers in a single layer. Break the crackers to fit in to the corners and edges.

Using Jell-O instant pudding mix make a pudding. The instruction is right on the box but let me tell you here.
To 2&1/2 Cup of cold Whole Milk add 1 box of Jell-O instant pudding Mix. Stir for 2 minutes. Do not wait for it to set. You have to use it before that.

Once it is mixed pour half the pudding on the graham cracker layer. Smooth the surface and top it with one more layer of Graham Crackers. Pour the rest of the pudding on top of this layer.

Top with a can of Cherry Pie filling. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Serve cold.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Black Bean Salad -- one more light Lunch


The whole of winter we rarely ever see our neighbors except little neighbor girl of course.

Come summer everyone creeps out of the woodwork.There is weight that has been lost, pounds that have been put on, hair that has changed color and in some cases babies that have sprouted.I wouldn't even have recognized the same people in a different surrounding.

Last week on a balmy summer evening, we had a neighborly potluck dinner to get acquainted with the winter changes, to exchange smiles and discuss updates before we all go into hibernation again.


One of the neighbors had got a Black Bean Salad which was very refreshing and perfect for the weather. It was a new thing for me too given that I had never made or tried a black bean salad before.

I made it on Sunday for a Monday Light Lunch. Usually my weekday lunches are pretty light. I also like them better if they can be made quick. This served both purpose.


This is all you need. Feel free to substitute and add anything that goes.


Drain and rinse a can of black beans thoroughly. You can also use dried beans which you then have to soak and boil.


Chop up the following very fine
1/2 of an apple
1 jalapeno
1/4 of an onion
1/4 of a green mango
Note: Add or substitute with anything else you like. Also if I am saving this for next day I will not add onion until tomorrow.

Put all the above in a big bowl, add salt, add chaat masala, squeeze some lime juice and mix.


Dump the rinsed beans in the same bowl and mix again. Adjust for salt and spice.

Add a handful of cranberries.

There done, refrigerate and have this for lunch tomorrow. You can add avocados, julienned carrots to this one and use it as a filling for a wrap the next day.

This post also joins Light Lunch series at Red Chilies.

Now for some of you who had inquired about feta etc. in India here is a list of stores where you can get cheese et al in Indian Metros. These were inputs from my FaceBook readers, thanks to them. To update this list please leave a comment.

I stay in Hyderabad....I get them in Hyper City
Yesterday at 9:34am · LikeUnlike
Nature's basket
Yesterday at 9:34am · LikeUnlike
Dorabjee's in Pune
Yesterday at 10:04am · LikeUnlike

Parmesan, bottled herbs like oregano, thyme, et al are actually quite common. Even small Mom and Pop supermarkets these days stock bottled Parmesan shavings.
Feta is probably a little more difficult to find but in Bombay, a slightly more food shop like Spinach or Godrej Nature's basket will have it. And yes, as someone else mentioned, I have seen it in Hypercity in Bombay as well. (Unfortunately cook for an army every time I go back to India so I have looked!)See More
Yesterday at 10:09am · LikeUnlike
In Kolkata....Babar Ali in New Market
Yesterday at 10:14am · LikeUnlike
Natures basket. Sante at bandra. Spencers south city at cal. Most big city super markets have them
Yesterday at 10:30am · LikeUnlike
Most Hypercity outlets and slightly "upmarket" grocers keep them these days.
Yesterday at 10:51am · LikeUnlike
In Pune in Dorobjees and some cheese farms like ABC farms
Yesterday at 10:57am · LikeUnlike
Hypercity in Bangalore.
Yesterday at 11:10am · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading...
You can try flanders dairy products available at their Lodhi Road outlet. Check out for contact details. They really have a great selection.
Yesterday at 11:30am · LikeUnlike

Could try the Street at the Park and Afraa, City Centre in Kolkata
22 hours ago · LikeUnlike
It is available in most of the mega metros where imported stuff are available. In Kolkata one can get it in Spencers south city mall, or in La protina near deshapriya park other than in new market. Alternatively, Foodfood channel of Sanjeev Kapoor showed making feta with paneer soaked in voinegar for 6 to 8 hrs....and then washin it thoroghly under running water....parmessan and other varieties as well
21 hours ago · LikeUnlike
You can get anything from Panchetta to Foigras to Feta in India...Just gotta have the will...there are are a few dairy farmers in Goa who supply some of the upscale hotels and locals in the area with their cheeses which include aged Parmesans and flavoured fettas.... like anything in India its who you know....
19 hours ago · LikeUnlike
spencer's south city calcutta

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pasta Salad -- for a Light Lunch

Near my home there is a place called Tuscany.

Beautiful rolling hills, wind rustling through the olive branches, bales of golden hay rolled up in meadows....

Okay, Cut, Cut...That is the other Tuscany

Repeat again.

Near my home there is a place called Tuscany, the Italian Gourmet Food store. BigSis loves the pasta there. I love it too but she loves it more so lets blame it on her.

The other day I got a cold pasta salad for myself from the same place. It was a very simple salad, pasta, tomatoes and red peppers tossed in olive oil and with a generous sprinkling of Feta. It was really very good. I don't sing glories of vegetarian food just like that.

Big Sis wanted a taste and then she finished almost all my share. Not so good.

But I thought, "Hey, if the kid can eat Pasta Salad at Tuscany, she can sure eat one at home. That means so much less work for me. For the next 10 years or so until she goes to college, that is what I am going to feed her. Simple, light, almost healthy Pasta Salad. That leaves me with an enormous amount of time for blogging about food that I don't need to cook. Yippee."


So I searched high and low and settled on this recipe. Only I did not have mushroom OR bell pepper OR green onion OR black olives.

That did nothing to dampen my spirits. I had Grape Tomatoes AND Baby Spinach AND more lovely Grape Tomatoes and more tender Baby Spinach.

So in a big bowl I happily poured some Olive Oil, the EVOO...glug, glug, glug

Then I splashed some Balsamic Vinegar...splash

Added some Garlic Powder, Pepper powder, Sea Salt, bit of Sugar, some Parsley Flakes...sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle

Whisked together.

Meanwhile cooked Pasta according to package directions and a minute extra. I had Farfalle.

I had also roasted some of the grape tomatoes earlier, they were sweet.

To the big bowl which had Olive Oil etc., I added the cooked Pasta, the roasted as well as some fresh tomatoes and baby spinach. They were tossed and turned till everyone was happily coated with the dressing.

I wanted to add sausages too but totally forgot.

I then let it chill in the refrigerator. While serving a generous sprinkle of Herbed Feta went on top.

Everyone loved it. And after two meals of that BigSis said "I love your pasta salad, but can we not have any more of it?"

This one I am sending to Red Chilies to share with her for a Light Lunch, her brilliant series for June. I absolutely love light lunches as that is what I cook for us all through the week. I am looking forward to see  more light lunch ideas through out this month at Red Chilies.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kancha Aamer Chaatni -- Mango Chutney


Remember my rant about nail paints some weeks back ? Remember me as the Mom who does not like kids to indulge in such pleasures ?

Well, after a long, long time I went for a pediacure last week. Other than work, I don't go out much without the kids so these ventures are very notable in my life.To achieve the said task, I went to work an hour early and then left an hour early so that in spite of my detour I could be back home in regular time.(I am okay if the Dad is home but in this case he was traveling). And then at the salon I could not enjoy my solitude and kept thinking of how I could have used up this hour at home instead. Talk of the perils of a working Mom.

Now either the salon people were very very diligent or my feet really needed work because even after 45 whole minutes I was sitting there having a hard time relaxing while this young girl kept rubbing one thing or the other on my feet and attempting small talk. Finally, while she tickled my toes with gooey aloe-vera, I had to tell her to hasten the process so that I could go home. Only, I did not say "go home", I said I had an important appointment, as if.

The young Chinese girl was very affected by my suggestion. She kept saying I should relax and enjoy but clearly those things were going above my head. As soon as she finished with the nail paint I scooped my bag, paid and ran, ignoring suggestion to sit and let the nails dry.

The moment I reach home, what do my two girls notice ? Ta-Da my toe nails. And they don't take it well. They keep asking about the garish pink nail color and why I didn't bring it along. They want their nails painted the same garish pink nail color.

I don't want to indulge and so I say "You can paint your nails when you are big".

The little one jumps at this prospect hoping to become B..I..G the next day and thanks me profusely.

The older one asks, "Big as in college ?"

I say, "Yeah".

She says, "By that time you will be old". This one forever seeks pleasure in my turning old.

I say, "So?"

She says, "If you are old, you will not be able to enjoy my nail colors. So don't you think you would like to see them now"

Me, "Yeah, Good try"


The green mango chutney or the kaancha aamer chaatni is something I adore. I have blogged about it here with full explanation. Here is a quick recap.

Wash and roughly peel 1 raw green mango. You don’t have to take out the peel very smoothly

Chop them up in small pieces(cubes)

Heat Mustard Oil in Kadai/Frying Pan

Add 1/2 tsp of Mustard seeds and 1 Dry Red Chilli. The mustard seeds will sputter and dance so use a splatter screen.

As soon as the mustard seeds start sputtering , add the chopped mangoes

Add a pinch of turmeric powder and sauté the mangoes

Saute till the mangoes turn a nice yellow because of the turmeric and soften a little.

Add salt and about 1-2 Cup water. Water should be enough to cook the mangoes. The chaatni should be thick and so add water moderately

Mix and cover and cook till mangoes are almost done. With the spatula check to see if the mangoes have softened.

Add about 2/3 Cup of sugar and mix well. Bengali chutneys are usually sweeter and so a little more sugar might be added if desired.Add a little more water.

Cook and reduce the water till you get a thick consistency and the mangoes are soft but not mashed up.

Roast about 1 tsp of panch puran/paanch phoron till you get a nice aroma, cool and dry grind it. Sprinkle this powder on the chaatni. More on Paanch Phoron.

Note: There are small variations to this which you can try.

1.Use Jaggery instead of sugar.

2. Instead of Paanch Phoron Powder use Bhaja Masala.

3. Instead of Paanch Phoron powder, roast Cumin seeds and Dry red chili, cool, grind to a powder. Sprinkle that on top. Thanks to Ushnish Da  for reminding.

4. You can use raisins in the chutney along with the mangoes. Sra says she likes that.

5. Add more water and cook mangoes till soft but not at all mashed up so that the chaatni is more liquid with pieces of mango


Roasting couple of Dry Red Chili on fire for Bhaja Masla #3.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Salmon with Cilantro -- Mexican really

Salmon Mexican | Salmon Cilantro Salsa

Salmon with Cilantro | Mexican Style Salmon

I first had this dish at a Mexican restaurant in suburban Maryland. It was beautiful with high notes of fresh coriander aka cilantro, jalapenos and lime. I do not know if it is an authentic Mexican dish or a creation of the chef at this restaurant as I have not had it at any other Mexican place. This recipe of Salmon with Cilantro in Mexican style is totally my take on the dish. It tastes delicious and that is all that matters

Summer is here upon us, all with its 90F+ temperature and I am lovin' it. As usual summer gets me extremely hyper. With first signs of warmth I start planning outdoor weekend trips which eventually leads to fun weekends but very very tired weekdays.

A couple weeks back we took BigSis and Little Sis to the Philadelphia Zoo. This was LS's first zoo visit and she was very excited. BS's school had a class trip to the same zoo later in the month but we were not sending her there so she was excited to visit the zoo before any of her class friends. The trip was really nice if you can overlook LS's throwing up in the car, there not being enough backup for the incidence which actually happens too often and us stopping at a Wal-Mart off the road to buy clothes, tissue, wipe etc. for LS. An hour long drive took us 3 hour with all the fiasco and the fact that every other parent in the tri-state area had decided to visit the zoo over the same weekend.

Though LS had fun running and jumping around I don't think she was awed by all those animals except the Peacock which kept crossing our path. Oh, and the tiger did scare her.


Over the long memorial day weekend we went to a music event organized by a major Indian publishing group. The arrangement was unprofessional, the seating deplorable and choice of venue very inappropriate.The Food as promised on the website was nowhere in real site.Fortunately the music was very good.

There was a three hour concert by Pt.Shiv Kumar Sharma and Hariprasad Cahurasia. I am not much of a music connoisseur and I have never heard them live. It was a wonderful experience to say the least, would be better with more peace and quiet around. Next up was Shaan and he wooed the crowd as expected. BigSis enjoyed the entire show including the Santoor recital and is now a huge fan of Shaan. LS fortunately slept through the classical rendition and was ok for most part of the later until Dad took her home.


Now few weeks back we were visiting our friend in a neighboring state and food connoisseurs that they are, they treated us to a lovely dinner at a Mexican place. This was not your usual run of the mill Mexican chains that dot the map of USA but was more of an authentic Mexican place. We had a Chicken Mole, my first mole time and I didn't really care for it much. Then came the salmon with cilantro. It was beautiful with high notes of fresh coriander, jalapenos and lime. We were in love with that salmon.

Now usually if I love something in the restaurant I don't try to cook it same way at home, instead I just go back to the restaurant to eat it. In this case though it would mean a 3 hour drive each way.So since the meal we had 3 weeks back, I have been trying to re-create it in my kitchen almost every week.

I am not totally successful. It is close and tastes very good but never perfect like the dish we had. I do not have their recipe and this is totally my creation with huge inputs from D of course.  Also since Mexico is a hop, skip and jump from India (no ?), I have used some Indian spices in the recipe. If you make this dish leave your inputs and idea to make it better. I will <3 you for that.

I am cool or what, I used my first ever heart sign so very casually. And here I did not know what "xoxo" meant until BigSis explained it all. Sigh.


Monday, June 06, 2011

Alu Potol er Dalna

AluPotolDalna, Alu Potol er Dalna, Aloo Potol Dalna

Alu Potol er Dalna | Potatoes and Parwal in  Curry

The Dalna in Bengali Cooking is a gravy dish where the gravy is thicker and richer unlike a jhol where the gravy is soupy and runny. In this Alu Potol er Dalna recipe, I have shared a rich gravy made with potatoes and potol/parwal/pointed gourd. This recipe is niramish/vegetarian. In a non-veg version of this same dish, you can add shrimp or prawns.

Little S loves bandhakopir tarkari or cabbage sabzi. Only she calls it "Baba Kopi". This makes us laugh because "Baba"=Dad in Bengali.
She does not like Fulkopi or Cauliflower as much as "BabaKopi". Also she refers to Cauliflower as "White Broccoli".

And then she calls Swami Vivekananda -- Ferdinando.

Otherwise her Bengali is impeccable.


The Dalna in Bengali Cooking is a gravy dish where the gravy is thicker and richer unlike a jhol where the gravy is soupy and runny. For evey jhol there is an equivalent Dalna. So if there is a Alu-Kopir jhol there is the Alu-Fulkopir Dalna, for a Alu-Potol er Jhol there is an equivalent Alu-Potol er dalna, so on and so forth.

The Dalna can be Niramish, which means vegetarian with no onion or garlic or can be Aamish with not only onion and garlic but sometimes fish being added to it. Also almost always dalna has a phoron of Whole Garama Masala and is cooked in Ghee or White Oil but it might vary a little amongst families.

I made the Alu Potol er Dalna yesterday after years. Potol/Parwal or Pointed Gourd is a summer vegetable back home. No one pays much attention to it after first few days of its arrival in the summer market. After that it is just one more staple summer veggie.

Here Patol/Parwal is expensive, not in its best form and seen occasionally in the Indian Grocers. Me buying Patol is same as someone buying Celery sticks in the heat of Mumbai.Does not make a whole lot of sense except for making mundane Potol a very fancy vegetable for me and cooking it as a special Sunday meal.

I made a Niramish Alu Potol er Dalna, no onion to chop always tips the scale for me. We really enjoyed it with some Rice and for once did not miss the mandatory meat or fish that is on the Sunday lunch menu.


Alu Potol er Dalna

Chop the ends of the Potol/Parwal and then scrape the skin.Chop in halves. I had about 10 potol/parwal


Heat Vegetable Oil in a wok and fry the potol with a pinch of turmeric till they are a pale golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.


Heat some more Oil in the same wok

Temper the Oil with
a pinch of Hing/Asafoetida(optional)
1&1/2" tin stick of cinnamon
1 small Bay Leaf
4 small green cardamom
4 clove
2 Dry red Chili


When the spices sizzle add 1 medium potato peeled and chopped in quarters. Sprinkle about 1/4 tsp of Turmeric Powder and saute the potatoes until they start taking on a pale golden color


Take 2-3 peeled whole tomatoes from a can or 1 big juicy tomato and blend to make about 1/4 cup tomato puree. Add the tomato puree to the pan.Add 1 tbsp of grated Ginger OR 1 tsp of Ginger paste

Add a little salt and fry the tomato till the raw smell is gone. If you are not the smelling type, check to see if the oil is separating from the masala. This will take about 6-8 minutes at medium heat


Time for the masala.
1/2-3/4 tsp of fresh ground Coriander Powder +
1/2-3/4 tsp of Roasted Cumin Powder
1/4-1/2 tsp of Kashmiri Mirch or Red Chili Powder

in little water and this.
Alternately, you can mix the spices with 1 Tbsp of yogurt and add the masala paste.

Note 1: I roast coriander seeds and grind them to a fine powder. Ditto with Cumin Powder. My Ma however uses jeere bata or cumin paste in this recipe. You can do that too. I also use Kashmiri Mirch so use Red Chili Powder according to taste.

Note 2: In a variation of this masala you can do this --> Dry roast 1 tsp Coriander seeds + 1 tsp Cumin seeds + 1/2 tsp Fennel seeds + 1 Dry Red chilli til fragrant. Cool and grind to a powder. Mix this powder with 1 Tbsp of yogurt to make a masala paste. Add this masala paste.

Sprinkle a little of the tomato juice or a little water and fry the spices for about 5 minutes. This is called "kashano" in Bengali or "bhuno" in Hindi and a lot depends on this step. You need to fry the masala till the oil surfaces and the masala takkes a deep red color. Don't try to hurry it. I have done that and there has been a difference in taste.


Add the lightly fried poto/parwal and gently mix everything together.


Add 1 cup of warm water. Add salt to taste. Cover and cook till potatoes are done. Potol/Parwal should be done by now. Remove the cover and reduce the gravy to your desired thickness.

Add about 1/4 tsp of sugar for an authentic Bengali taste.

Adjust for spiciness, add a little ghee and garam masala powder if you wish. Keep covered and serve hot with rice or chapati

Friday, June 03, 2011

Have a Ha-Tea Weekend


...drinking Tea and reading a book in a rocking chair by the window. Mine will definitely be an antithesis to that but a girl can always dream.

The two cups in the picture were my Mother's day gift from BigSis and Little Sis, who rather whose father knows about my cup fetish too well. There were also lovely hand made cards and a home made brunch. The books, Orhan Pamuk's "Museum of innocence" and "Best food writing 2009" were picked up by me at an amazing price when Borders near my home was going out of business.

While I am going slow with the Pamuk, I am enjoying the short essays in "Best Food writing". It is a lovely collection and though I cannot say I love all the writings, some of them are true gems. Apparently this collection goes back a few years, so you will find one for every year going back to god knows when.Try to get your hand on a copy if you enjoy food writing and love essays on food as much as food itself.

Edited to add: I am hosting this month's edition of  "Of Chalks and Chopsticks" started by Aqua.

The Picture: The Picture that you see in this post is what will be your cue for this month's entry. For details about this whole concept check here

And here are some more rules, shamelessly copied from Sra's blog:

1. Spin us a yarn - an original one. It could either be based on a real incident or could be something competely imaginary. Explore any genre: humour, romance, mystery, paranormal etc.

2. The story you write has to have some food - it doesn't have to be a recipe.

3. There is no word limit on the story you write, but it has to be written in one single post.

4. Posts written for this event CAN be shared with other events.

5. Please link to this post and Aqua's original post mentioned above.

Post your story and the recipe between now and June 30 and mail it to me at: sandeepa(dot)blog (at)gmail(dot)com

Include the following details in your mail:

1. Name and URL of your blog

2. Title and URL of your post